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The Dark Side of the Story

Posted by heyrandy on August 4, 2017

Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery

Anne Farrow, Joel Long, and Jenifer Frank, 2005

We all have heard the story of how the South was so barbaric, backward, and benighted that it maintain slavery. The North, we know, was the civilized, progressive, and enlightened area of America. We know this is true because the schools teach it.

This book demonstrates that the north was not the morally righteousness one that is it is thought to be. Their hands are as dirty as any slave master’s .

While slavery was first abolished in (some of) the northern states, the northerners figure out ways to profit from the fruits of the southerner’s slaves. This story has been forgotten. The authors give it new life.

The genesis of the story was the authors’ employer, The Hartford Courant, publishing a story about the Aetna Insurance Company’s regretting its insuring slaves. The author began wondering about the Courant. The Courant was guilty.

So how did the north enrich itself via the slaves it did not own? Slavery was a giant industry. Such industries need the same services as any other industry. The north was the source of financing, insuring, and transporting slaves.

The northern banks, mostly in New York City, handled the loans that the southern plantation owners need to operate. The northern-based insurance companies wrote the insurance, and the northern shipyards built the ships to transport the slaves and the goods they produced.

The northern mill owners profited from the purchase of southern, i.e., slave-grown, cotton. This would lead to the Civil War because the northern manufacturers wanted high import tariffs to protect them from European competitors.

The real hypocrisy is revealed in the ending of slavery in the northern states–except for Maryland and Delaware.  The slave owners sold their slaves to the southerners. Why take a loss?

Even after slavery was abolished in the United States, the northerners still profited. Slavery was still legal in the West Indies. Here the product was not cotton, but sugar. Sugar was slave grown from the beginning. The sugar was shipped to New England to be convert into rum. The rum was traded in Africa for slaves. The slaves were sold in the West Indies and Cuba. Profits everywhere.

Many of those who profited from this trade were abolitionists. The authors give us no hint as to how these seemingly righteous ones could think this was right.

One area that was new to me was the force labor in the ivory trade. Native Africans were conscripted to transport ivory from the interior of Africa to the coast. This part of the book contains the only mention of the Arab Muslim slave traders. The eastern trade is otherwise ignored. This story is more horrible the what we know of the western slave trade. We have the descendants of the western trade with us, but where are the descendants of the eastern trade? The word ugly begins to describe the horror.

The book is worth the time to read. It tells of an ignored aspect of slavery that we all need to know.




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